If you’ve just split-up, you’re getting a divorce, or dissolving a civil partnership or you’ve been separated for a while, you might need to sort out arrangements with your ex or other family members.
Family mediation is where an independent, trained professional helps you and your ex to work out an agreement about issues such as:
- Arrangements for children after you break up (sometimes called custody, residence or contact)
- Child maintenance payments
- Finances (for example, what to do with your house, savings, pension, debts)
- It can also be used to help with the other issues you might face, for example, your children keeping in touch with their grandparents, step families, or in-laws. Mediation can also be helpful when arrangements you’ve made before need to change, particularly as your children grow up.
If you go to court to sort out your issues, the judge will make the decisions. You will need to stick to these decisions even if one or both of you feel unhappy about them.
Mediation can help you stay in control. No-one will make you do anything against your wishes. The mediator will help you find a solution which works for you both and explain how you can make an agreement legally binding.
A judge will expect you to have considered mediation before you apply to a court to hear your case. They can refuse to hear your case until you have done this.
Most people who start mediation will reach agreement without having to go to court.
If you need to formally end a marriage or civil partnership, you will need to apply to the court to do this, but you will not usually have to attend a hearing.
How family mediation helps:
- It gives you more say about what happens;
- It’s less stressful, with less conflict between you and your ex;
- The agreements you make can be changed if your circumstances change;
- It can be less upsetting or damaging for any children involved – and helps them continue important family relationships.;
- It can be quicker and cheaper than long drawn-out court battles.
You may be able to get mediation and legal support for mediation for free if you get legal aid.